Feeling like The Six Million Dollar Man

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PART TWO: Channel TEN and SEN journalist Andy Maher completes the Epworth HealthCheck.

Read PART ONE here.

Having done a bit of talking and a series of interesting tests throughout the early stages of Epworth’s HealthCheck, the second on-site visit was the one that I was most looking forward to.

Having watched The Six Million Dollar Man as a kid (apologies to all of those under the age of 50) I have distinct memories of Lee Majors (Col. Steve Austin, rebuilt injured Astronaut) strapped to a running machine with tabs stuck all over him recording how incredibly capable he was aerobically.

The reason I mention that is as part of the second consultation, that was going to happen to me. I couldn’t wait.

So, with that the carrot, it was no problem at all fasting, gathering poo samples, having abdominal ultrasounds, getting jabbed for my bloods and laying dead still as some phenomenal apparatus scanned me up and down to assess my bone density and skeletal alignment. These were the precursor to the big daddy of them all.

There were a couple of reasons the Six Million Dollar Man treatment (aka. the echocardiogram) was so alluring to me.

One, is that I’ve been doing a bit of running over the last few years and was keen to see how I stacked up.

Another was to check the state of my heart. This thing is incredible. You lay there and the doc’ can see the four (I hope I’ve got that right) key parts of your heart and how they’re operating. You can see theses internal valves of yours opening and closing as the blood flows in and out. It could be a chilling piece of vision if a) you knew what you were looking at and, b) your ticker was no good.

The third reason I was keen to have this done was pure vanity. I’ll admit that I went in thinking that I’d be in reasonable shape in this area, and I really wanted to test myself against the machine and the bank of data they’ve accumulated regarding men of my age. Basically, I wanted to beat the crap out of ‘average’.

So, with the hairy chest shaved (only complaint of the entire process – this pinched) and the pads attached and connected to the ECG unit, it was time to run.

You start on next to no gradient and at a leisurely enough pace. At regular intervals the doctor asks how you’re going. “Are you ready to go to the next level?” he asks. “Of course Doc, let’s have a crack,” I enthusiastically reply.

This process is repeated with the gradient increasing throughout (I can’t quite recall if the speed is altered as well, but as the hill gets steeper the work gets harder). Before every level is entered the doctor checks that you’re ok.

I ran for 18 minutes. That’s a warm up for me on a flat, road run, but by the end of this thing I was cooked. I wanted to go another level, but this wasn’t life or death so I called quits on it. Had I gone another few minutes, the muesli bar I had a couple of hours earlier to break the fast was in real danger of paying us all a visit.

The results (given to me as part of the final consultation you have with your consulting doctor when all of the data is collated) showed that everything was working as it needed to be. I wasn’t happy with ‘exercise was terminated because of fatigue,’ but I did enthuse about ‘stress echo images demonstrated dynamic LV function with no evidence of inducible regional wall motion abnormalities.’ This wasn’t as readily readable to me as Champion Data type stuff, which I have some concept of, but I think meant that everything was as it should be.

And you know what, while it doesn’t make me the next Six Million Dollar Man, it gave me a great sense that there were no devils waiting to claim me.

And that whatever I’m doing to keep myself in some sort of healthy nick is working. Hollywood isn’t coming knocking, but seemingly neither is the Grim Reaper. And that made the whole exercise incredibly worthwhile.

And here’s the key point on what the Epworth’s HealthCheck is really all about. It will give you the lowdown on how you’re travelling. If there’s something in there that’s waiting to claim you, I suspect this is going to help you find it.

If there isn’t and you’re going okay, there’s no amount that you can spend to secure that peace of mind. It’s not cheap and it’s not for everyone, but if you’re a spasmodic (at best) visitor to your healthcare professional for regular check-ups, then, quite seriously, this might be the most perfect adventure for you.

Originally published at 1116 SEN.

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